A Child’s Right to the Best Start in Life

Posted on Feb. 9th, 2012 at 9:30pm

The following guest post is written by Tom DiFilipo, president and CEO of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services. Joint Council is Mead Johnson’s lead partner for A Child’s Best Start program.

A child’s need for a family atmosphere and proper care to ensure successful development is not merely common sense, it is evidence based. Studies over the past 20 years repeatedly demonstrate the detrimental effects of living without permanent parental care. Just three months in an institution and a child has a one month developmental delay. After five years, that child is developmentally only three years old.

Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon within orphanages and child welfare institutions around the world. While caregivers in these atmospheres have the best of intentions, it is likely that they lack access to the proper nutritional resources and best practices to foster normal childhood development. As a result, many children in these circumstances suffer a lowered IQ, lowered body weight, and reduced height and brain mass.

As one of the leading international organizations dedicated to a child’s need for a permanent family and sustained care, Joint Council for International Children’s Services leads a coalition of 258 international non-government organizations providing services to over 2.1 million children in 72 countries each year. Through our many initiatives, including research reports and international advocacy, we aim to create an environment that allows children to be served in a way that truly keeps them safe and protects their rights.

As President of Joint Council, I see many corporate programs come to fruition, but none with the long-term commitment, comprehensive approach, collaborative implementation or child-centric focus found in A Child’s Best Start. Our global partnership with Mead Johnson Nutrition and our leading role in the implementation of this program is not simply a one-off project. This is a long-term commitment by those of us with the resources, expertise and reach to make a difference. We are utilizing a comprehensive approach including research, interventions, advocacy, volunteer mobilization, training, assessments and information dissemination. And we are focused on helping our world’s most at-risk population.

We all have a role in ending the plight facing orphans and vulnerable children. It takes partnerships and collaborations to keep children healthy. It takes researchers and educators, governments and corporations, volunteers and advocates. It takes all of us working together with one overriding vision – to provide the best start in life for every child.